Thursday, March 20, 2014

Parallex 3D photography on iOS

For the longest times, people have been enamored by 3D imaging and when the humble iPhone came along, I did a bit of stereophonic photography with some iPhone apps with some success. To see the finished results, you needed a pair of Cyan/Magenta spectacles which you could buy off eBay for cheap.

Traditionally 3D photography was the domain of full featured cameras. Panasonic released a 3D lens for their M4/3 cameras which needless to say, bombed in the market. It sold so badly that you could now pick one up on eBay for a song. 3D rigs were sold to allow you to shoot using 2 Canon DSLRS, but none would come close to its simplicity than the humble Fujifilm FinePix  W3. This was a true 3D camera and it even had a 3D LCD screen which you can see the results of your photos. Here is an explanation about 3D parallax photography I pick off a PDF file:-

3D camera Parallax Capture
The following explanation describes how the Paralla
x setting on 3D cameras operates, and how the
adjustment affects the 3D image. This leads into a
discussion about close-up work and how close-up
lenses and attachments can improve the close-up cap
abilities of stereoscopic cameras.
Conceptually, viewing a 3D image (or movie) is likelooking through a window. The 3D scene appearsmostly “behind” this “Stereo Window,” which is formed by the bounds of the exactly overlapped leftand right image frames.The Parallax setting of a camera sets the distance from the camera to the “Plane of Convergence.”
Usually, when the recorded images are shown the frames that bound the left and right images arealigned so that they exactly overlap on the screen,which places both the Plane of Convergence and the Stereo Window on the screen. Subjects in the scene
that are closer than the Plane of Convergence appear in front of the screen and subjects that are behind the Plane of Convergence appear behind the
screen, thus the screen becomes the Stereo Window.
The Stereo Window and the Plane of Convergence are important concepts of 3D photography, so understanding them is critical to making good
stereoscopic illusions, motion or still.

For mobile devices, the closes thing you could get to a 3D photograph is a virtual one offered by the makers of Seene, an iOS app that lets you capture and share 3D photos with an online community.

Seene to be Seen

Capturing parallax photos isn't as easy as it sounds. First, the app has to detect an object of a particular color. This means no messy backgrounds of colors which are in the grey. The best subjects are often objects that have a clean background. This can be anything from cars to buildings to knick knacks.

Then you have the challenge of moving it about which requires you to move it up, down sideways to the right and left. Do it too fast, you have to start all over. Do it too slowly, it tells you to start over. In most cases, you can only get it right after two tries.

Then you have the square aspect ratio. Which is to make it easier to capture objects than scenery. Once the image is processed, you upload it to the world to see. For now, Seene app is only available on iOS though an Android version is in the works, there is no release date.

Chrome Browser Busted

To view it on a desktop browser is real easy. Open the link that you shared and you'd be taken to the picture and all you do is move the cursor about to see the 3D parallax effect. Neat. Do that on the iPhone and it will tell you to open the Seene app to view. Try that on a Android Chrome browser, you get a stumping warning that it is not supported.

WebGL to the Rescue

If you are running Jellybean 4.3 with an updated Chrome browser, you should be able to see the picture in 3D. If not, then try this:-

Go to Chrome App

Key in chrome://flags/

Enable WebGL

Relaunch Chrome.

Done...! The problem with most devices that are running a tad slow will have WebGL disabled by default. Chrome ships with WebGL but natively, it is turned off. If you are having problems with WebGL on Chrome, then download the next alternative, which is Opera for Android (not Opera mini). There is a warning that comes with using the Chrome command, so if it starts to crash on you, just reset the permissions to default.

What is WebGL?

Web Graphics Library is a Javascript API used primarily for graphics rendering. The parallax photos used on Seene are graphics intensive as it makes use of this library to render the 3D effect.

Dual core devices are normally able to handle the load called upon by WebGL but that's quite iffy should you come preloaded with 1GB of RAM on Android devices.

Seene Potential?

Not for now. As is, Seene is having problems gaining traction among users. It is positioning itself as the 3D version of Instagram and yes, I do see the potential here for marketeers who might want to put up 3D photos of their products but beyond that, there is very little use for casual photographers to take 3D photos.

The edge detection capabilities of the Seene app is limited to spot focus. Anything focused in the periphery cannot be registered by the app. This means that all subjects must be placed dead center of the frame for it to be used successfully. An isolated object works best.

Should it improve, there is much more room to grow. For example shooting landscapes and group photos with a 3D parallax effect would be stunning.

The onus is really on the hardware. If you are packing enough power to generate the 3D image, then it won't be a problem. Sadly for now, all the power is in top end Android and iOS devices. It could take a year or more before everyone switches over to better hardware. 


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